Forest from the Trees Analysis

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Dear Sorority Girl,

As humans, it is in our nature to view things simplistically. Most of us participate in day-to-day events single-mindedly. We are much too wrapped up what we are doing to take a step back and recognize the greater picture. We fail to notice the impact of the social systems that constantly surround us. The systems that we associate with are much bigger than ourselves. In fact, they define who we are not only as individuals, but also as part of a society. Allan Johnson, author of The Forest and the Trees, does an incredible job of investigating on the importance of looking at society through an outside lens; taking a step back and analyzing the social systems we are all involved in. He shows that in doing so, we are able to learn more about the world and our lives involved within it.

Sociology is simply the study of society. On the surface, this seems like a very straightforward topic. Sociology has a substantial impact on those who are learning about it because it involves a lot of critical thinking. Critical thinking is the attempt to step outside of our ideologies and make reflective, logic-based judgments (McGinn 2011). Basically, critical thinking forces us to step outside of our single-minded viewpoints and assess situations in which we often experience not simply based on our beliefs, attitudes, and opinions but as something much greater. There are many circumstances in which we must think critically. Take rushing a sorority as a great example. It is important to not just choose a house that you want to be in based on your own beliefs. You also must take into consideration other important factors such as location of the house, the possible new sisters who are already members, the status of the sorority among others to help make the right, most logical decision. But, before one you can decide which house to live in they you have to investigate and must know about the culture of all the houses. Johnson (2008) feels that every social system has a culture (39). Culture is the way we construct reality within a social system. It involves using symbols and ideas to shape how we make meaning of everything. Culture allows for diversity among societies. Each and every sorority house in Greek Life has its own culture that makes it different from the others. Each house will have different rituals than the next: they will all sing different songs, have different secret handshakes, and they will all represent and cherish different letters of the Greek alphabet. The culture of each house is further shaped by the house’s belief, values, norms, and attitudes.

A belief is what we consider to be true or false. For instance, the members of each sorority believe that their house is the best house on campus. This may not actually be true, but the members consider it to be true. Values are beliefs that guide our choices. According to Johnson (2008), values rank things in terms of how socially desirable they are (48). This means that values delegate what we consider good or bad. Sorority houses value their colors. A sorority may believe that the colors red and yellow are superior to all the other colors in the rainbow and may value it so much so that the members of that sorority will only wear red and yellow clothing. Norms are cultural values that have been turned into rules for they have social consequences such as punishments and rewards. A norm within the sorority house may pertain to some of the rules that the members must follow. For example, not paying chapter dues on time results in the punishment of a meeting with standards and possible deactivation. In order to avoid negative consequences, norms influence people to take the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance is what you are supposed to do to feel a sense of belonging. In other words, a group will create certain criteria that encourage people to follow a certain path. In order to avoid getting in trouble with the national...
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